Top 10 Tips of British Culture and Social Etiquette guidelines

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

Punctuality means a lot to English people, and they see that being on time is a courtesy. However, if one is running late for 10 minutes it is still acceptable. Do apologize and give your reasons. Formal meetings are expected to schedule with planning on timely manner. 

Queuing and waiting for your turn are one social etiquette--- no one should push or jump any lines; always give way to the elderly and needed as a civilised manner. 

Saying “sorry” is a sign of strength and mannerism, and so as “thank you”, “please”, and “excuse me”. Modest statements (and sometimes “understatements”) and gratitude are often used (such as “perhaps”, “possible”, and “could be”) as good social protocols.

Holding the door for the next person coming, and do not forget to take over from someone. Always offer to help those who need help even if they have not asked personally.
Do cover your mouth when you sneeze, cough, or yawn; do not spit or speak loudly in public. It is always polite to ask if someone follows your conversation.
Raise questions after a person finishes the conversation: it is often encouraged and expected to show. Do not interrupt when someone is talking to you, and always try to keep one arm’s length away not to appear too aggressive nor intrusive.

Table manners are quite crucial in British dining culture; one is expected to dress decently (no flip-flops nor shorts in a fancy restaurant). Diners should know to cross their fork and knife when they are still enjoying, lay them together when finishing : never chew with noises and always eat with your mouth closed.
Personal space and privacy are highly valued in British culture: never ask personal questions such as age, earnings, and personal wealth when you meet for the first time. Get to know a person first before asking more questions.

Always bring along a small gift, for instance, some flowers or a box of chocolate when you are invited to a house party to show appreciation. Always greet with a good handshake when you first meet someone; closer acquaintances and friends will kiss each other on the cheek before engaging in a conversation.
If someone in the room speaks a different language from you and your native friend, it would be considered rude to carry on the conversation in your native tongue. It would be seen as an exclusion to those who do not speak your language.

We run regular seminars on Sino-British cultural differences and pre-departure etiquette class as for the students under our guardianship. If you want to know more about British culture and education system to plan for the future, please contact Karen Li Foster, our Education Consultant at James-Lee Consultancy:

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